Blair solid in debut but Braves lose fifth straight

The Braves hope right-hander Aaron Blair eventually develops into a top-flight major league starter. That’s the long view for the touted prospect.

Right now, during their wretched start to the season, the Braves urgently needed Blair to make a strong start to bolster for a rotation that’s been lacking them. Blair had a strong big-league debut on Sunday but Braves pitchers have a small margin for error with the offense scuffling.

The Mets did just enough against Blair for a 3-2 victory that sent the Braves to their fifth consecutive loss. The Braves (4-14) were swept at Turner Field for the third time in four series this season as the Mets tied a franchise record with seven consecutive victories in Atlanta.

The Braves have 60 hits over their past six games but scored just 19 runs because just seven of those hits went for extra bases. They’ve gone without a home run for 13 consecutive games to tie the 1999 Brewers for the second-longest drought in the Wild Card era, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

“You don’t win games in that second (hits) column,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’re getting our knocks, now we need to get them with people on base. But that’s encouraging that we are not walking back with our bats and punching out. You are always looking for a positive, and that’s a positive.”

Blair limited the Mets (10-7) to six hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings with two walks and a strikeout. The one extra-base hit he allowed, an RBI double by Michael Conforto, put the Mets ahead 2-1 in the sixth inning and ended Blair’s day after 80 pitches (45 strikes).

Alexi Ogando replaced Blair to face Lucas Duda, who hit a sacrifice fly to deep center for a 3-1 lead. That’s all the Mets needed to beat the power-deficient Braves.

The Braves got eight hits against Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (2-0) over 5 2/3 innings. They totaled 12 hits against the Mets, all singles, and left nine runners on base.

The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Blair. The Braves tied it on Nick Markakis’ two-out RBI in the fifth inning after Blair moved Jace Peterson to second base with a sacrifice bunt.

Jeff Francoeur trimmed the lead to 3-2 with a two-out RBI single against reliever Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning. Markakis followed with an infield single but Daniel Castro grounded out to end the game.

Markakis, the lead-off hitter, and No. 2 Castro each had three hits and clean-up man Adonis Garcia had two. But No. 3 hitter Freddie Freeman went 0-for-4, including 0-for-3 with runners on base.

It was another example of how it’s too difficult for the Braves to score runs by stringing together singles.

“I feel like everyone is putting extra work in and trying to make adjustments when they are at the plate,” Castro said through an interpreter. “We are getting hits, we just haven’t had the outcome that we wanted.”